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Battle begins over medical marijuana in New Hampshire

CONCORD - The latest attempt to win legalization for medical use of marijuana ran into opposition from the former head of a national physicians group on pain management during hearings Thursday.

House Bill 573 and an assortment of amendments would allow the use of marijuana for pain relief and treatment of symptoms of disease.

The chief sponsor of the bill, Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, said the bill does not allow walk-in clinics, at which someone can get a quickie prescription from a doctor and a bag of marijuana to go.

"Under this bill, you cannot prescription shop and just start getting a prescription," Schlachman said. "You have to be a qualifying patient; you have to have a three-month relationship with a physician."

The bill was opposed by Dr. Sedden Savage, a member of the faculty at Dartmouth Medical School and former president of the American Pain Association.

Savage referred to the proposals as plans to allow "herbal marijuana," which she compared to other herbal remedies and argued for putting medical use of marijuana through the same Food and Drug Administration approval process given other prescription drugs.

"In the context of medical health care, herbal marijuana is not a medicine as we think of contemporary medicine," Savage said. "This is not a modern medicine. Let's craft a distribution system that reflects the limited need."

Sen. John Reagan, R-Concord, supported the medical marijuana bill, drawing on the experiences of his wife and mother, both of whom died of cancer. Reagan said he had visited the medical marijuana facilities in Maine and came away convinced that it can be distributed with sufficient control so that it is only used for the intended purpose.

"The average is sale is $100, enough to relieve pain for 15 days," Reagan said. "We spent $1,000 per month on the oxy family (of pain relief medication) that had horrible side effects which we don't find when we use a plant that grows out of the ground."

The hearing was expected to continue for much of the day.

Trace Adkins
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